Sir F. Chook, Inventor of Leopard Oil

Likeness captured upon a daguerrotype machine in Japan, July 1891

Lettres

Wherein the Author reflects upon certain topical & personal issues of the Day.

Questions, Questions

Penned upon the 16th of August, 2007

Hello, everyone! I’ve just been updating the ‘Frederick Answers Questions’ section over at the Bibliographie with some explanation of the origins of FrillyShirt and what all these silly words mean. I’ve included the bulk of the update here also, for ease of reading!

Why ‘FrillyShirt’? And is your name really ‘Sir Frederick Chook’?

Papers, magazines and journals name themselves for their content, of course; Vogue and Cosmopolitan wish to illustrate their fashionability, while Punch has always celebrated comic bigotry and domestic abuse.

So whither FrillyShirt? Well, a shirt is an intimate thing: it sits close to the skin, to the heart. Ideally, a shirt is comfortable – to wear a hair shirt is a greater challenge than to wear a hair belt buckle. Frillyness is a function of ornamentation, ostentation, unqualified and unashamed. Once you’ve put on a shirt, it more or less stays on – you could take off an indulgent hat to meet your bank manager and put it back on when you’re done, but you couldn’t remove a frilly shirt without stripping off entirely. FrillyShirt, then, implies wearing one’s flamboyancy on one’s sleeve, entirely honestly and expressively, without slavishness to what is proper and socially advantageous.

‘Sir Frederick Chook’ is a nom de plume, simply enough. Writers have always used pen names to express a certain aspect of their identity, something relevant and important to their writing – Voltaire, for example, or Mark Twain, or Flavor Flav. ‘Frederick’ is more or less the product of chance – it is a nice-sounding name, sort of woody, and while it in no way upstages my more everyday names, it does summon something of the long-haired wit, no?

‘Chook’ is, like me, Australian in origin, but in an incidental rather than an iconic way, possessing a certain absurdity, a subversive silliness to offset the pomp of ‘Frederick’. ‘Sir’ is the title of a baronet. It’s a hereditary title rather than one granted by the state, and so its bearer need exhibit no loyalty to the establishment in order to earn one. However, it is not a peerage, and grants the bearer no special political rights. Rather than seeking to give myself airs above my fellow humans, I declared myself baronet of my imagination, a title implying absolutely nothing about me beyond possession of a title. And an imagination. The fruits of which, you see before you!


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Commentary upon “Questions, Questions”

  1. Meaghan was heard to remark,

    Upon the 19th of August, 2007 at 11:10 pm,

    Wonderfully put!

    I had wondered at both titles myself, but it makes more than complete sense now.


  2. Sir Frederick Chook was heard to remark,

    Upon the 20th of August, 2007 at 4:57 am,

    Thank you! I’d like to do more of these little ‘why and wherefore’ updates – put more of myself into the site, to make it more immediately accessible.


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